Employees Rights During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As states, including New Hampshire, begin the process of re-opening, many employees are worried about their safety when they return to work. Many employees are also concerned about whether they will qualify for workers’ compensation. The threat of coronavirus is still serious and employees with pre-existing conditions are right to be concerned about their safety. Below we will discuss some of the most pressing issues facing New Hampshire employees as they return to work.

Does Your Employer Have the Right to Force You to Work?

New Hampshire is rather flexible when it comes to granting unemployment benefits. When an employer asks you to return to work, you have a right to decline and continue to collect unemployment benefits. According to the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security, you must have a qualifying reason under the CARES Act to continue to stay at home. Anyone who is caring for children who are home from school, who has a specific medical issue that places them into a high-risk category, or those who are caring for children who are home from school should qualify.

After the end of the school year, parents can keep collecting unemployment to care for their children if they self-certify that the organization that would typically provide child care during the summer is closed because of the coronavirus. In other words, you cannot simply refuse to go back to work and remain on unemployment; you must meet certain requirements.

What Safety Measures Does Your Employer Have to Implement?

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu issued safety guidelines that employers must follow. These guidelines include screening employees for symptoms of coronavirus on a daily basis. Employers must also require employees with a fever or symptoms of coronavirus to stay home. Under normal circumstances, employers would not be able to ask questions related to health of employees, but the Governor made an exception through an executive order.

Can You File a Workers’ Compensation Claim if you Contract COVID-19 at Work?

Under New Hampshire regulations, an employee who contracts COVID-19 at work could qualify for workers’ compensation. In order to qualify for benefits, the employee must prove that he or she suffered a compensable workers’ compensation injury.

The employee must show that COVID-19 is an on-the-job condition that is peculiar or specific to the particular industry or trade that exposed the employee to the infectious disease. Health care professionals and first responders are more likely to face exposure to COVID-19 during their employment. Deciding whether an employee qualifies will be decided on a case by case basis. It might be challenging for some employees to prove that they contracted COVID-19 while at work due to the highly infectious nature of the coronavirus.